August 10, 2009

Intentional Academic Plagiarism Needs to Cease

In my teaching experiences, I have had many bizarre encounters with undergraduate college students. I am set ablaze, though, when I encounter a case of intentional plagiarism. With the ease and accessibility of websites like,, and many others, students can easily submit another’s work as their own.

Using a plagiarism detection tool, I can quickly identify students who have purchased their essays online. Unfortunately, in most cases, the student essentially gets a slap on the wrist, receives a low grade, and continues in his or her studies.

The problem is that a college or university’s retention goals often take precedence over academic dishonesty. In an effort to retain students, I fear that some colleges and universities have compromised ethical principles. Each graduating student should only receive his or her degree if the highest standards of integrity have been met.

I realize that some cases of plagiarism can be used as teachable moments. It is no surprise that a student’s first research paper will be littered with copied material and lacking appropriate citations. These students were never shown the proper rules concerning paraphrasing, summarizing, and directly quoting a source. However, submitting all or most of someone else’s essay is a matter of common sense and basic ethics. Because each situation varies, I would recommend that the student be placed on some kind of academic probation or expelled.

This kind of behavior is astounding to me because my college experience involved apprehension and fear towards my professors. I would double check my citations and quoted information multiple times so that I could not be accused of any type of plagiarism. For some students, they are obviously willing to take the risk and hope that the instructor does not notice. Perhaps colleges and universities should crack down on severe plagiarism cases and ‘up the ante’ a bit in academic standards…even if the year’s retention goals aren’t met.